Conway Twitty

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #40-#31

October 24, 2009 // 38 Comments

thumbs downThe banality continues. Read Part 1 here.

The Worst Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #40-#31

#40
Kenny Chesney & George Strait, “Shiftwork”

A stab at the working class blues still ends up on a tropical island by the third verse.

#39
Anita Cochran featuring The Voice of Conway Twitty, “(I Wanna Hear) A Cheatin’ Song”

In which a duet is formed from beyond the grave by chopping up bits and pieces of old Conway Twitty songs and reassembling them word by word.

#38
Billy Dean, “Let Them Be Little”

Thirty seconds in and you’ll be headed to your dentist for a cavity filling.

#37
Montgomery Gentry, “She Couldn’t Change Me”

Sorry boys, but “some hip-hop mess” would be a great improvement over this hillbilly trainwreck.

Country Music Firsts

August 24, 2009 // 40 Comments

pamtillisOur readers have clearly responded well to our Back to the Nineties features this month. (Fret not, there are more on the way.) Part of the reason is that so many of you, like myself and Leeann, first discovered country music in that decade.

This isn’t too surprising, as the nineties helped establish country music as a genre with widespread appeal. The suburbanization of once-rural America reached its apex, and at the same time, CMT deeply penetrated the cable market. For you newbies, the channel was 24-hour videos back then, with remarkably democratic video rotation.

A clip in heavy rotation would only be seen two more times a day than one in light rotation. This is the reason both Mutt Lange and Sean Penn discovered Shania Twain through her “What Made You Say That” clip, which was played extensively on the channel despite the song stalling at #55 at radio.

The New York country radio station back then would do a “Country Convert” feature every morning. A radio listener would call in and say what song converted them to country music. Newbies to country music back then had a religious zeal to them, and would work very hard trying to convince others to fall in love with the music.

Traditional Country is a Link in a Long Chain

June 30, 2009 // 23 Comments

The following is a guest contribution from Scott O’Brien.

“But someone killed tradition. And for that someone should hang.” –Larry Cordle & Larry Shell, “Murder on Music Row”

Dan Milliken’s recent post got me thinking: The country music I grew up with is nothing like the music on country radio today. If I turned on today’s country radio in 1988, I might not realize it was a country station and keep right on flipping. Back then, Randy Travis and Keith Whitley’s traditional twang ruled the airwaves. Today, they are dominated by the giggly teeny-bopper ditties of Taylor Swift and the boy band sounds of Rascal Flatts. Did they get away with murder on music row? Well, let’s start by briefly uncovering country’s traditional roots.

What is traditional country music? Is it simply anything from the past? That seems too broad; Shania Twain wasn’t traditional. Anything before 1990? Maybe, but that is still a rather wide net. To me, traditional country music is honky-tonk music. It heavily employs steel guitars, fiddles, and forlorn vocals. It moves at a slow pace. There are no drums or electric guitars. The songs typically deal with heavy topics such as heartbreak, cheating, or drinking, with a ballad here and there. In most cases, the goal is to induce pain. Not bad pain, but the therapeutic empathy that tugs your heart and helps you through your personal struggles. The patron saint of traditional country is Hank Williams. Hank’s first disciple is George Jones. Jones’ first disciple is Alan Jackson. The traditional template is supposed to help us decipher what is country and what is not. After all, what makes country music country if not fiddles and cheatin’ songs?

Daryle Singletary, “Love You With the Lights On”

April 12, 2009 // 4 Comments

I really love everything that Daryle Singletary’s approach to country music represents. Sometimes it seems there are only two veins of country traditionalists: the ones who take the Haggard and Jones approach, and the ones who take the Waylon and Willie approach. Singletary is all about the Conway Twitty and Charley Pride, a crooner of romantic ballads awash in steel guitar. There’s only one thing that holds Singletary back from being the Twitty or Pride of his generation. His voice just doesn’t have the ability to pull off these types of songs completely. “Love You With the Lights On” is a solid enough song. It certainly would’ve been a chart-topper in the seventies for one of the aforementioned men. Singletary sings it pleasantly enough, but he’s not entirely convincing as the seducer here.  His voice just doesn’t have the depth and nuance to pull it off. God bless him, but Read More

Conway Twitty Starter Kit

March 15, 2009 // 17 Comments

Starter Kits are Country Universe’s way of introducing country music fans to an artist that they might not be fully aware of. Our first Starter Kit features Conway Twitty, the legendary Hall of Famer with forty number one singles to his credit. After having major success on the pop charts in the fifties, Twitty crossed over to country, where he was a regular presence in the top ten from the late sixties until the early nineties. No country music fan should be without some Conway Twitty in their collection. Here are ten tracks to start off with. “It’s Only Make Believe” from the 1958 album Conway Twitty Sings Twitty’s clearly influenced by Elvis Presley as a vocalist on this #1 pop hit. He’d later develop a country style but never fully lose the soul sound found on his first hit. “Hello Darlin’” from the 1970 album Hello Darlin’ Still his Read More

Chris Young, “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)”

January 31, 2009 // 11 Comments

I remain a fan. Chris Young has one of the finest traditional country voices to come along this decade, easily on par with Josh Turner’s.  He’s able to turn in performances that sound steeped in tradition without sounding dated. “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” would have been a smash for Conway Twitty back in the day. Like the Twitty hits of yore, “Gettin’ You Home” is suggestive without being sleazy, and the second verse reveals that the young lady is just as eager to get back home as the gentleman who is serenading her. These days, it seems that Turner and Blake Shelton are rivaling for the title of Country Romeo, but if radio gives this single some real estate, Young could give them a good run for their money. Written by Cory Batten, Kent Blazy and Chris Young Grade: A- Listen: Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Read More

Various Artists, Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Contemporary Country

December 13, 2008 // 1 Comment

Various Artists Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country Contemporary Country Earlier this year, the Grammys celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a series of compilations focusing on winners in different fields.  Two of the best entries in this series focused on country music.  With five decades of winners to choose from, it’s no surprise that Ultimate Grammy Collection: Classic Country and Ultimate Grammy Collection: Contemporary Country are solid collections. The Classic Country set is particularly strong, including a diverse selection of significant artists from the sixties and seventies.   Even better, most of them are represented with their signature tracks.    Roger Miller opens the set with “King of the Road”, easily his biggest hit.   Other superstars include Tammy Wynette (“Stand By Your Man”), Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue”) and Waylon & Willie (“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”) As the collection moves on to the seventies and eighties, Read More

Classic CMA Awards Moments, #7: Shania Twain, Entertainer of the Year (1999)

November 3, 2008 // 7 Comments

#7: Shania Twain Entertainer of the Year 1999 She’d long been an afterthought with the Country Music Association, failing to secure an award in her six-year career, but the organization righted past wrongs by honoring Shania Twain with its most significant trophy in 1999. Twain had taken losses twice for the Horizon Award, and had been defeated in both her Female Vocalist of the Year nominations, including earlier in the evening. But Reba McEntire beamed with joy as she read Twain’s name to make her only the fifth female artist in history to take the CMA’s top award.

CMA Flashback: Male Vocalist

November 1, 2008 // 6 Comments

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page. 2010 Dierks Bentley Brad Paisley Blake Shelton George Strait Keith Urban Bentley and Shelton have never won, but they’re up against Strait, who has won five times, and Paisley and Urban, who’ve won three times each.  With the balance of commercial and critical success not significantly different across the category, this race could bring the night’s biggest surprise. But whatever happens, kudos to Paisley for earning his tenth nomination, and Strait for earning his twenty-fifth! 2009 Kenny Chesney Brad Paisley Darius Rucker George Strait Keith Urban Just like in the Entertainer category, 80% of this race for the past three years had been Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban. This year, Darius Rucker took the fifth slot that was occupied by Alan Jackson in 2008 and Josh Turner in 2007.  Brad Paisley went Read More

Concert Review: Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton

October 30, 2008 // 5 Comments

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton Star of the Desert Arena Primm, NV October 14, 2008 In the better late than never category, on October 14, in between two of the craziest weeks ever, I made the trek to the middle of nowhere—Primm, Nevada—to watch two of my favorite mainstream country artists—Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton—perform together at the Star of the Desert Arena. Excellent separately, I was curious whether the sum of the whole would be greater than its individual parts. The answer is currently no, but the potential exists. Country music history is rife with stellar male/female duos, among them Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. Lambert and Shelton are not in this category, but clearly inspired by these pairings and having dated for the past year, they decided to take their home act on the road and Read More

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